His first name may be “Christian,” and he may love the pope, but Christian Day is a witch. Just ask him. 

Day and his husband, Brian Cain, have welcomed others who practice witchcraft and magic to New Orleans for the past four years, with hundreds from around the world coming to the Bourbon Orleans Hotel for the annual HexFest.

Day said that with the city’s history of tolerating, and even reverencing, voodoo and witchcraft, the first three years of the festival were nothing but welcoming.

Not this year.

Over the weekend, the festival's witches, voodoo priestesses and conjurors were joined in the French Quarter by Christian groups, who protested and prayed outside St. Louis Cathedral.

Day said he respected their right to protest, even though he thought they were wrong — he took serious issue with their calling festival participants “demonic and Satanic” — but what he found under his door Saturday crossed a line.

The one-page message, left under the door of nearly every room in the hotel, condemned the festival, saying in part, “The Angels of the Most High are surrounding the city and you cannot prevail.”

“This is a terrorizing act. It is a frightening act,” Day said. “What an absolutely atrocious welcome mat for our nation to have a family from Australia come all the way to America to be terrorized in their hotel room.”

The letter was anonymous, and no one has taken responsibility for it, though groups including the Catholic youth organization TFP Student Action were on hand for the protest Saturday.

Day said he was told others had heard young people in the halls talking about putting the messages under doors late Friday night.

That’s not an act anyone at the festival would even think of doing, Day added, saying that witchcraft — which he said was officially recognized as a religion by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986 — is badly misrepresented.

It is all about channeling one’s energy to do good in the world, he said.

How to put that into practice is the purpose of the festival, with the weekend filled with workshops like “bone cross juju,” “conjure dolls for all your needs” and “celestial sorcery.” It also included a trip to Marie Laveau’s tomb and an opening ritual aboard the Creole Queen.

Day said the festival has doubled in size since it started in 2015, when about 150 people attended. Now, that number’s over 300, and it includes well-known members of the magical community and those Day said are “still in the broom closet.”

One of those attending — and offering a workshop — was Starr Casas, a self-described conjuror.

Casas said she’s always felt at home in the witchery community even though she still follows Christianity. That’s why she was especially upset at the protests.

“Jesus was a healer. Mary was a healer. So are they sinners?” Casas said. “I don’t like being called a devil, and I don’t like being called a Satanist because I am none of those.”

Day said Satanism is not a respected part of the witchery community, calling those who follow it radical and attention-seeking.

But he has a message for those who try to scare his community: “They would have a better time with their mythical Satan than with me.”

“I don’t protest with nuns. I show up with scantily-clad bikini women in pointy hats,” he said. “They picked a fight with the wrong person. I will not watch the guests of our festival terrorized or intimidated without severe retaliation in all legal ways. If they want to see what a legal protest can look like, I can push the boundaries of taste.”

HexFest concluded with a ritual Sunday night, but Day and other participants are already looking forward to next year. HexFest 2019 is scheduled for Aug. 9-11.

Editor's note: This story was changed Aug. 13 to remove a reference to protesters from St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Metairie. That group did not attend the protests. 

Follow Nick Reimann on Twitter, @nicksreimann.